Tag Archives: family meals

3 Great Reasons to Eat As a Family (Healthy Recipes Too!)

Shared mealtime is not just a traditional family ritual, but is also beneficial for many mental and physical aspects of health. According to research from Rutgers University, an average American family spends about 40% of their budget on eating out. Here are three great reasons to make family mealtime a priority:

Decreased probability of weight problems later in life. Children in families who frequently share meals tend to have a lower body mass index than those who did not share meals—this is according to research from Rutgers that reviewed a multitude of studies measuring the frequency and atmosphere of shared meals compared to children’s risk of weight gain. Family meals are associated with increased consumption of fruit and vegetables while also associated with less consumption of fried foods, soft drinks, and other less healthy food options. The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics states that a child may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods, and 12% less likely to be overweight by sharing mealtimes.

Increased emotional well-being. The American Dietetic Association finds that family meals give structure to a child’s day and increase a child’s sense of security. In addition, they promote communication and family cohesion and make a positive impact on a child’s literary development and emotional well-being. A study by the University of Minnesota found that the frequency of family meals is actually a protective factor that may curtail high-risk behaviors among youth by easing everyday stress.

Greater academic achievement. Sharing family meals leads to improved vocabulary and reading skills in children, improved test scores, and decreased probability in taking drugs. The conversations had during family meal time improves a child’s vocabulary and conversational skills. As a result, test scores are improved in these children as well. According to a study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, teens who eat dinner with their family at most twice a week were four times more likely to smoke cigarettes than those who participated in family meals more frequently.

And eating together can and should be fun! Try these ideas as a family that your kids may love:


Two-Ingredient Pancakes with Creamy Berry Topping
Blend together 1 egg and 1 banana. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, or even ground flaxseed into the mix for extra flavor and nutrition. Cook in cooking spray on a pan until golden brown. For topping, mix 0% Greek yogurt with mashed blueberries and raspberries or powdered peanut butter.


Egg Muffins
In a muffin tin, crack an egg into each spot. Add mix-ins like diced tomatoes, onions, spinach, mushrooms, fresh herbs, goat cheese! These can be refrigerated for breakfast the next day.


Zucchini Noodles with Chicken or Tofu Kebabs
Use a spiralizer or veggie peeler to make “noodles” from a zucchini and boil for a few minutes. Top with tomato sauce and grilled kebabs made with tofu or chicken cubes, cubed bell pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon.


Yogurt Parfaits
Have your kids layer these up! They will have fun adding their choice of healthy mix-ins.

6 oz 0% Fage Greek yogurt or fat-free Siggi’s
1/2 cup blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, bananas, etc.
1 T ground flaxseed
1 T slivered almonds or pistachios
Cinnamon, to taste

Peanut Butter Banana Rolls
1 whole wheat or brown rice tortilla topped with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and 1 sliced banana. Roll up and cut into sushi-roll pieces.

Chia Seed Pudding
1 cup skim, coconut or almond milk + 1/3 cup chia seeds, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/4 cup berries. Let sit overnight! Optional add ins: Cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, nuts, coconut. Get creative and have fun with this!

Research suggests that children who take part in family meals eat healthier foods, have less delinquency, greater academic achievement, and improved mental well-being. However, the benefits vary based on the frequency of family meal times. The most positive health benefits for children can be seen from three or more days of shared family meals per week.

This research also states that the quality of family interactions is even more important than just the shared time together. For example, families who ate together while watching TV did not have the same improved dietary intakes as families who ate together at home and conversed.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Maria A. Bella, MS, RD, CDN is a 70 lb. weight loss success story who runs, lifts, and eats great food. She is a clinical Nutrition Coordinator at the Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at the NYU Langone Medical Center. Maria completed her Masters in Clinical Nutrition at New York University and her Dietetic Residency at NYU Langone Medical Center.

3 Easy Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

happy family with two kids making dinner at homeIt’s important to many parents to find ways to get their kids to eat healthy—whether they have toddlers, young children, or teenagers. Healthy eating can improve energy level and focus, and even smooth out the moods of children and teens. If you’re looking for some easy strategies to improve your child’s eating habits, here are a few ways to make mealtimes healthier—and more pleasant—for your entire family.

Have regular family meals. Having a regular time for you and your children to eat together gives structure and predictability to the day. It is a chance for everyone to sit down together and catch up. Be sure to serve a variety of foods, such as lean meats and other sources of protein such as fish, eggs, and beans, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least five total servings of fruits and vegetables a day. If you can, catch a few moments together in the morning for breakfast before the school day starts. Dinner time is another great opportunity for the family to gather and share what happened during the day. If you don’t have time to cook, bring in prepared food—the structure of mealtime together is what’s important for you and your children. It emphasizes the importance of food and mealtimes for your children.

Get kids involved in the process. Your children may be more open to trying a new food (especially a fruit or vegetable) if they get to pick it out at the store.Children really enjoy going to the supermarket, selecting what goes in the cart, and helping to pack up and unpack the food items. The supermarket is also a good place for children to understand the nutritional values of different foods and, for older children, to learn to read the nutrition labels on foods. Children of all ages enjoy helping with cooking, from gathering ingredients, to reading recipes, to helping with the cooking process. Children are much more invested in eating something if they have helped to make the food. Older children will also enjoy giving input on what is packed for school lunches or what to prepare for dinner.

Make mealtime fun for the whole family. When you are planning meals, make sure to present a variety of foods in an attractive manner. Colorful dips and sauces may help to encourage your children to eat more fruits and vegetables, and fruit can be arranged on a kebab for a fun treat. Food can also be cut into unusual shapes and arranged in a fun manner on the plate to increase acceptance. If your child does not eat a certain food the first time, do not give up—children’s tastes continue to change over time. Just because your child does not love broccoli the first time, it doesn’t mean he or she will never eat it in the future. Make sure to try it again at a later time and perhaps prepare it a different way. Another great way to encourage your children to eat well is to eat well yourself! Kids follow their parents’ leads, so by maintaining a well-balanced diet and showing that you care about eating healthy, you send a message to your children that healthy eating is important for our minds and bodies.

By encouraging healthy eating habits now, you can make a positive impact on your children’s relationships with food and give them the tools they need to develop into healthy, confident, teens and adults.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Dr. Lisa Kotler is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist and the medical director of the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center-New Jersey Office in Hackensack, NJ. She has extensive experience working with children, adolescents, and adults with eating disorders and obesity in addition to anxiety and mood disorders and ADHD.